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Can IBM Connections provide the missing social layer for Sharepoint intranets?


Microsoft’s Sharepoint platform continues to dominate the intranet landscape in various sectors, including law firms and professional services. But as Toby Ward writes on CMSWire, this is not necessarily leading to more social intranets appearing, with only 10% of a recent survey reporting that their intranet could be described as ‘social.’

This is a real shame, in our view, since intranet projects tend to fall down on the very issues of engagement, relevance and collaboration for which social intranets are such a good solution.

At the recent Interact Intranet conference in London, I spoke about the importance of social intranets for workforce engagement, and highlighted some of the key features and benefits of social intranets for knowledge-based firms such as legal and professional services firms. Here are my slides:

Recognising the limitations of Sharepoint, which we have discussed here before, many firms are now asking how they can use SharePoint as a base layer for their intranet, taking advantage of its Office integration, identity and security management and other good features, whilst adding a social layer on top to drive engagement and collaboration. We are doing several projects in this area, and the solution usually involves some combination of good user experience and workflow design, to get the best out of existing SP2010 social features, and/or the use of additional products such as tibbr or Newsgator.

But something we have not covered before is the possibility of using IBM Connections as a complete social business layer on top of Sharepoint. This has some clear advantages such as the simplicity of managing two distinct platforms, rather than over-customising SharePoint, and taking advantage of the far more advanced social features of a dedicated social business platform.

To explore this option further, we are jointly hosting a breakfast briefing with IBM on November 15th for top tier UK law firms, where we can learn more about their experiences of or opinions on SharePoint and social intranets, and discuss the possible benefits of SharePoint + Connections. If you are interested to attend, please contact my colleague Christoph Schmaltz.

12 Responses to Can IBM Connections provide the missing social layer for Sharepoint intranets?

  1. By luis Benitez on October 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    To answer the question in your blog, I would say yes 🙂

  2. By Claudio Nichele on October 21, 2011 at 6:42 am

    Hi Lee, Do you envisage to share your conclusions here after your breakfast briefing with IBM?
    I’m really interested by the topic since my administration, its IT dept to be truth, chose sharepoint ootb as intranet platform. And of course the user experience is far to be good. Thx, Claudio

  3. By Rich on October 24, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I would say no. Its either or. Makes no economic sense to invest in connections if you have sharepoint. Its about the collaborative ecosystem and total cost of ownership. IT needs focus these days to increase its agility and response to business. Your not going to get that if you continually add vendors and disparate platforms and repositories to govern support and administer.

    • By Lee Bryant on October 24, 2011 at 11:39 am

      Thanks all for the responses.

      @Rich: this is, I think, a common IT dept point of view, but it is also also (arguably) self-contradictory. How can IT be agile if they opt for a single (trailing edge) platform?

      • By Rich on October 24, 2011 at 11:53 am

        Its about collaboration as a service. Its about security compliance and information management. Connections is not a platform. Sharepoint is. Products like newsgator add the consumer-like experience people expect on the sharepoint platform.

        • By Niels J. Hansen on October 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm

          But that is exactly where you are wrong in my opinion. Connections IS a platform – it is a Social Business platform, built from the ground up to provide a social collaboration tool. SharePoint on the other hand is a document centric solution put into the world to serve Microsoft Office and adopted to other purposes, incl. a barely half decent attempt to be a social business solution.

          Fixing SharePoint w. i.e. NewsGator will not close the gap and will likely leed to painful realisations of lost investments once Microsoft moves in to fix SharePoint (in 2013?). I see it as inevitable that Microsoft wants to do this themselves eventually.

          • By Norbert Herman on October 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm

            Interesting observation Niels; there are indeed two big concepts at play here, i.e. content management and collaboration and the trick is to land on a platform that combines them together. Forrester does a good job in evaluating IBM’s offering as it deals with both of these topics and speaking from experience, when we combine IBM Connections with interlinking to knowledge repositories like Lotus Quickr or MS Sharepoint, we then get the best of both worlds to meet the full collaborative needs of the enterprise.

  4. By Yaacov Cohen on October 26, 2011 at 2:50 am

    I have seen companies trying to make SharePoint more social by adding Connections as a social platform while SharePoint is used for document collaboration.
    But here is the challenge: documents need to be part of the social network and they must be connected to people and having the social platform and the document collaboration platform disconnected may lead to yet another silo. You can read more here:

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  7. By Jenna Dobkin on December 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Intriguing. And yes.

  8. By Rigard de Wet on January 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Do we have an outcome of the discussion held with IBM?